Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
O sweet spontaneous
by e e cummings
O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
prurient philosophers pinched
, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
them only with
“O Sweet Spontaneous” by e e cummings. Public Domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower born in Denison, Texas (1890). He grew up in a poor family that was very religious. His mother was a pacifist. When her son chose to go to West Point for college, she broke down in tears. He took a position training soldiers after he graduated in 1915. He wanted to go overseas to fight in World War I, but it ended a week before he was supposed to go over to Europe. He wrote a guidebook of World War I battlefields, and then was stationed in the Philippines.
He finally got back to the United States in 1939, and he was stationed at a based in Louisiana where he supervised the largest military games ever carried out in this country, a simulation designed to help prepare for a land war in Europe. Eisenhower planned the strategy for the invading army, and the following December, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was put in charge of the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.
It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, in which William Duke of Normandy came across the channel from France and defeated the army of Harold II of England. The Normans became the rulers of England, and French was introduced into the English language. William had an army of about 7,000 cavalry and infantry. Harold had about as many men, but many of them untrained peasants. It was a close battle until William Duke of Normandy pretended to retreat and drew the Englishmen out of their position in pursuit and then turned and annihilated them.
It’s the birthday of the short-story writer Katherine Mansfield (books by this author), born in Wellington, New Zealand (1888). She was the daughter of a successful businessman who sent her away to school in England. At 18, her parents brought her back to New Zealand, and she found that she no longer had anything in common with her family.
She became one of the wildest bohemians in New Zealand. She had affairs with men and women, lived with Aborigines, and published scandalous stories. She moved back to London and lived in the bohemian scene there. At one point, she married a man she barely knew and left him before the wedding night was over because she couldn’t stand the pink bedspread.
She didn’t begin to write the stories that made her famous until her younger brother came to see her in 1915. They had long talks, reminiscing about growing up in New Zealand. He left that fall for World War I and was killed two months later. She was devastated by his death, and she wrote a series of short stories about her childhood, including “The Garden Party,” which many critics consider to be her masterpiece.
She said, “Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare fiddle?”
It’s the birthday of American poet and playwright e e cummings (1894) (books by this author), born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University, and cummings grew up around intellectuals, including philosopher Williams James, who encouraged him to write from an early age. cummings’ family was Unitarian and he considered himself a pacifist, though he enlisted in World War I and was sent to France (1917) to serve in the ambulance corps with his good friend, novelist John Dos Passos.
cummings’s letters home were vociferously anti-war and he was imprisoned in Orne, Normandy, for almost four months on suspicion of treason. He was kept in one large room with 30 other prisoners, an experience he later fictionalized in his novel The Enormous Room (1922). His father received a letter telling him his son was lost at sea and was so distraught he began writing letters to officials. When he received no answer, he wrote directly to President Wilson, who was able to locate cummings. cummings was very close to his parents. His poem “my father moved through dooms of love” was written after his parents were involved in car accident with a locomotive. cummings’s father was killed instantly, his body cut in half.
cummings’s poems were short and playfully innovative in structure. He favored concise sentences, lowercase letters, unusual typography, and acrostics. He liked to invent compound words like “puddle-wonderful” and “mud-luscious.” No one quite knew what to make of his work when his first collection, Tulips and Chimneys, was published in 1923. Literary critic Helen Vendler found Cummings’ poetry exasperating. She said, “What is wrong with a man who writes like this?”
For more than 40 years and three marriages, e e cummings lived in the same apartment at #4 Patchin Place in Greenwich Village, New York City. He traveled often to Paris. He had friends like Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and John Cheever. He wore Harris Tweed and a collapsible top hat. His Aunt Jane took most of what little money he had and sent him a carton of Melba toast in return. He survived giving lectures at colleges and high schools. He said, “If poetry is your goal, you’ve got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about self-styled obligations and duties and responsibilities.”
Most of his poetry collections were self-published until the late 1940s, when the burgeoning counterculture suddenly discovered him, and his poetry became quite popular, especially poems like “i carry your heart with me” and “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond,” which contains his most famous line, “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most popular poet in America, behind Robert Frost.
e e cummings’s collections of poetry include Tulips and Chimneys (1923), & (1925), XLI Poems (1925), and XAIPE: Seventy-One Poems (1950).
Theodore Roosevelt was shot at a campaign stop on this date in 1912. Roosevelt had just gotten into a car outside a Milwaukee hotel when John Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper, shot him with a Colt revolver from a distance of five feet. Schrank — who believed he had been given orders by the ghost of President McKinley — had been stalking Roosevelt, and intended to stop him from pursuing a third term as president. It had been an ugly campaign so far, with deep division in the Republican Party. Roosevelt left the GOP and ran as a member of the National Progressive, or “Bull Moose,” Party.
The crowd tackled the shooter, but Roosevelt’s composure was not ruffled in the least. He asked Schrank why he’d done it, and turned the man over to the police when he received no answer. Roosevelt then coughed experimentally into his hand, and deduced that the bullet had not penetrated his lungs, because he didn’t cough up any blood. He insisted on proceeding to the Milwaukee Auditorium, where he delivered a 90-minute speech as scheduled.
He began by calling for quiet, and then told the stunned crowd: “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot — but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” He opened his coat to reveal his bloodstained shirt, and credited the 50-page speech in his breast pocket for saving his life. Roosevelt blamed the media for provoking the shooter: “It is a very natural thing,” he said, “that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of awful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers.” He also predicted that such shootings would become more commonplace, should the government fail to care for the well-being of all its citizens.
In the end, Roosevelt came in second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. He received 27 percent of the vote, the most any third-party candidate has received in an American presidential election. Schrank’s bullet remained lodged in Roosevelt’s rib for the rest of his life.
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